I wrote a story, a midrash of sorts based on II Kings 2:23-25 — the story of Elisha and the bears.
He was a man among men– gone now or so they say. Some said he was sucked up in a gust of wind some said he was taken off by horses into the clouds. That would have been amazing to see.
It is sad that he is gone. I resisted the idols, the groves, the fertility rites, but I cannot say that it is due to holy character. I have to say that it was because of the great prophet, who stood up to king and country, challenged hundreds, preaching fearlessly the message of Adonai. Baal and Ashtoreth had no one to compare to him. He was the man I aspired to be… at least sometimes.
But he has gone and another has taken his place. The great prophet, a fierce hairy man who could intimidate by his stare alone even before saying a word, is gone and replaced by one who seems so much less. The new is hardly a shadow of the old. I am not sure this is a man who would have inspired me to follow Adonai.
This new one came to our place. Some of the troublemakers came out to mock him, as troublemakers always do. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I joined them. It was so evident that this was not the man who took hundreds of Baal’s priests to task. And yet, this new prophet wears his mantle and rumor has it that he sought twice the blessing and twice the power of the older. How disrespectful! The disrespectful should expect disrespect.
Different jeers were thrown at him, but it moved toward a rhythm— “Go on up, O bald one, Go on up.” Where are those horses who would draw you into the heavens like they did your master?
This young prophet (although quite a bit older than all of us, I think) was becoming red in the face, and he shouted a curse in our direction. Nothing happened. Some of us threw curses back at him, while others laughed. But the laughter died with the roar— the roar of two raging bears that burst from the treeline. They began to trample the group, crushing them underfoot and tearing at their flesh. Over 40 were soon dead, and many more were injured. I was more fortunate, being among just a few that made it up into the trees. I have never seen bears behave like that. They do not attack unless provoked, and even then would soon look for an escape route rather then stay around to do more harm to the injured.
It has been many days now, and the dead are now buried and only those who can afford the time to grieve are still in mourning. It has given me time to think. Clearly, only a prophet of Adonai could command wild bears. That is obvious.
But I alone in my village, perhaps, feel sorry for this prophet. A prophet is a servant of Adonai. They speak His message to the people. Sometimes He gifts them with special powers like the great prophet– to heal the sick, change the weather, to fight evil spirits, or maybe even raise the dead. But this new prophet has the power to curse. Now that I think about it, the great prophet also had the power to curse… as did Moses. Our father Abraham, did he as well? I don’t know. God blessed him to be a blessing to all nations, but also a curse to some. Did that mean he could actually call a curse on a nation? I don’t know. But what a horrible power to have!
Having the power to curse and have the curse come true— who can handle such temptation. Even the great prophet could not fight off that temptation. He killed 50 soldiers by his word who were treating him disrespectfully. I cannot condemn him for it, because it is a temptation that few could resist. Moses could not resist it. Even the great kings David and Solomon in all of their righteous wisdom could not always resist the temptation to destroy their enemies through the power of the sword and state. I get angry and I say regretful things far too often. I thank Adonai that my curses float in the air and then dissolve to nothing.
To have one’s curses come true— that is a curse in itself. This new prophet, I think he sees how true this is. I could not look at the carnage below me, and so I looked at the prophet. I watched as his eyes were fixed on the dead and dying– his face filled with horror.